Defining Marriage

There are two types of videos I will probably never get tired of: proposal videos and videos of deployed soldiers surprising their families in returning home. So when a Facebook friend linked to a video called This Might Be The World’s Most Romantic Proposal, well…come on! It is indeed the quintessential representative of a major life event in the modern age: a videotaped, multimedia presentation with flash mob choreography at a “made for reality tv” lavish location and broadcast on the Internet. 

As opposed to YouTube, however, the video was hosted at GodVine, which is similar but Christian-themed. The parents of the bride-to-be express their tremendous joy that their daughter will be marrying a God-fearing, Christ-centered man. And of course the comments appearing beneath are from GodVine’s God-fearing, Christ-centered fellowship. And as I looked them over, I noticed a pretty concrete theme about them.

But first….

A lot of people have looked at Minnesota’s historic defeat of the “Defense of Marriage” state constitutional amendment ballot initiative in 2012 (the first state to vote down such an amendment) and the rapid, subsequent legalization of same-sex marriage in 2013 as part of the tipping point further emphasized by the Supreme Court ruling this year as well. While licking their wounds, the same-sex marriage opponents lamented that they let the conversation be framed by one about love. In order to gain or hold ground, they argued, it had to be about marriage as a platform for families — with children, raised by a mother and a father. Because, as they argue (in court, mainly), that’s what marriage is all about, and the definition has never changed.

So, out of curiosity, I exported and combed through as many of the nearly six hundred comments posted on that video that I could yank into a document and tabulated those descriptive elements that the commenters used to describe, predict, project, or wish upon the couple’s relationship and future life in marriage. And here’s what those terms were, and the rate of incidence:

  • Love (true love) 94 (11)
  • Blessed 86 
  • Beautiful 85 
  • Romance 55 
  • Happiness 49 
  • Longevity 41
  • Amazing 41 
  • Awesome 33 
  • Best 28 
  • Lucky 27 
  • Sweet 24 
  • Wonderful 21 
  • Effort/Hard Work 20 
  • Surrounded by family (existing) 19 (18) 
  • Special 17 
  • Christ/God-Centered 16 
  • Joy 14 
  • Great 13 
  • Incredible 9 
  • Lovely 8 
  • Thoughtful 8 
  • Cool 8 
  • Good 7 
  • Cute 7 
  • Creative 6 
  • Princess/Fairy tale 6 
  • Future Children 6 
  • Breathtaking 6 
  • Memorable 6 
  • Hollywood 6 
  • Touching 5 
  • Precious 5 
  • Magical 5 
  • Perfect 4 
  • Gay 4 
  • Inspiring 3 
  • Nice 3 
  • Radiance 3 
  • Fantastic 3 
  • Funny 3 
  • Good Health 3 
  • Friendship 3 
  • Heartwarming 3 
  • Honor 2 
  • Caring 2 
  • Gorgeous 2 
  • Fabulous 2 
  • Remarkable 2 
  • Over the Top 2 
  • Dedication/Devotion 2 
  • Heartfelt 2 
  • Gift 2 
  • Deep 1 
  • Favored 1 
  • Divine 1 
  • Spectacular 1 
  • Moving 1 
  • Understanding 1 
  • Doomed 1 
  • Energy 1 
  • Excitement 1 
  • Commitment 1 
  • Butterflies 1 
  • Cherish 1 
  • Thrilling 1 
  • Neat 1 
  • Epic 1 
  • Pure 1 
  • Raw 1 
  • Safe 1 
  • Treasured 1 
  • Chivalrous 1 
  • Considerate 1 
  • Kind 1 
  • Glorious 1 
  • Spectacular 1 
  • Soulmate 1 
  • Giving 1 
  • Nerdy 1 
  • Wealthy 1 
  • Mature 1 
  • Respect 1 
  • Darling 1 
  • Heart of Gold 1 
  • Old School 1 
  • Refreshing 1 
  • Unique 1 
  • Compassion 1 
  • Rare 1

To be sure, there was a high amount of calling for “God’s blessings” on their marriage. Eighty-six times, in fact, and the number two declaration. “God/Christ-centered” likewise makes the top ten, as one might anticipate. Yet far and away the number one thing the GodVine audience saw as likely defining Brad and Emily’s marriage was “love,” and in many of those cases “true love.” Not to mention the half-dozen fairy-tale/princess references. The third most popular descriptor was “beautiful,” followed up by “romance” and “happiness.”

By comparison, their future children are referenced six times, and possibly alluded to once (in a reference to family). Love is bandied about throughout the video, too, and if there was a nod toward future kids in a fully-realized family structure in there I must have missed it. If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that the GodVine viewers in their natural environment are pretty locked into the idea of love, romance, and happiness as among the most desirable characteristics in a marriage as everybody else.

(**As a cute little side note, while five people talked about their future kids–with one making two such exhortations– there were four people who insinuated that, due to the theatricality and massive production value of the proposal, Brad was probably gay. For whatever that means.**)

Clearly this little breakdown isn’t exactly scientific, but I’m pretty certain that it is fairly representative. The way we perceive, define, and celebrate marriage HAS CHANGED. Marrying for love is a new and radical departure from the many historical uses and expressions of marriage. But most of us think that’s a good thing, and it wasn’t one group that changed it on everybody else. We all went there together.

Hand in hand, as it were.

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Author of over sixty children's books, as well writer of textbook materials and standardized exam text. I may have helped teach your children...

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